NAUGATUCK — The race for mayor of Naugatuck has its first candidate.
Burgess Alex Olbrys, a Republican, celebrated his 23rd birthday April 8 at The Corner Tavern by announcing his candidacy for mayor.
“The slogan to our campaign is ‘Making Naugatuck the Destination.’ All across town we hear that Naugatuck’s best days were behind us. We had Uniroyal. We had a booming downtown. We had businesses. I’m here to tell you tonight that Naugatuck’s best days aren’t behind us, they’re in front of us,” Olbrys said.
Olbrys is in his first term as a burgess and graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in the fall with a bachelor’s degree in history.
Olbrys said the borough needs to market itself better to companies.
“We have to market that we are between New Haven and Hartford. We have to market that we are surrounded by rural communities that don’t have the infrastructure to support larger big box retails or offices,” Olbrys said.
Ryan Whipple, owner of The Corner Tavern, said he decided to help Olbrys host his announcement because he believes in him.
“It doesn’t have to do with the Democrats or the Republicans. It has to do with supporting a friend. I’m inspired by people who are passionate, and I think Alex is extremely passionate about what he is about to do and what he does,” Whipple said.
The mayor’s race is wide open this year. Mayor Robert Mezzo, a Democrat, has held the seat for six years. He has announced that he will not seek re-election. Olbrys is the first candidate to announce a run at the mayor’s seat.
Olbrys pledged he would constantly work to bring businesses to the borough to help alleviate to local tax burden.
“The mayor’s office should be calling businesses all day, every day and ensure we get the business in Naugatuck and we don’t lose it to one of our surrounding communities,” Olbrys said.
Olbrys said he also wants to work with the school system to improve the district, which the state classifies as an Alliance District. This means it is in the bottom 30 percent of school districts in the state based on testing scores.
Olbrys said he plans to work with Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke to reach out to local universities to try and bring collegiate programs into the schools.
“Whether our students are going in to the military, college, or the workforce, they need to be prepared. The Naugatuck school system has an obligation to prepare each and every one of our students for that future,” Olbrys said.
Olbrys feels his age will have a positive impact on the mayor’s office.
“I am able to bring fresh ideas to our borough government, however I am also able to listen to the advice of others and make well-informed decisions based upon all the facts and information that I am presented with. All across town people are tired of the politics as usual, I continually here this from interactions with many different people,” Olbrys said.
Olbrys pointed to New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and the former Torrington Mayor Ryan Bingham as examples of people who were elected to office at a young age.
“Both of these mayors were elected in their 20s and were able to do the job well,” Olbrys said.
Republican Town Committee Chairman Kim Kiernan said the committee has heard from a number of Republicans who are considering running for a variety of offices. The committee will hold its nominations and endorse candidates near the end of July, she said.
“After six years of tax hikes and spending increases in the borough, I think the vacancies represent a wonderful opportunity for a fresh new look and some fiscally-responsible leadership to lend some innovative ideas to our town,” Kiernan said. “It’s not going to be easy but it is just not good enough to be the third highest in tax rate, amongst the bottom performing school districts, and have economic development at a relative abeyance.”